The Power of Exponential Impact in Design

Dominoes toppling each other

Do you think Carolyn Davidson, creator of the Nike logo, had any idea that her design would become an iconic cultural symbol, worldwide?

As a recent college graduate, she was offered a job by Phil Knight, founder of Nike (then called Blue Ribbon Sports, Inc.). His company needed a symbol to represent “movement” for an upcoming shoe line and Carolyn provided them five concepts drawn on a napkin. One of those concepts happened to be the infamous “swoosh”. She was paid $35 for her concept (this was in the 1970s) and after a bit of refinement, it was used as the company’s logo. The rest, well, is history…

A flow chart showing how one person’s work can expand and grow into something bigger.
The power of exponential impact, visualized.

I describe Caroyln’s work as exponential impact. She created something for her boss. Her boss utilized her work to represent the company’s products. The customers resonated with the product and brand. The brand grew. Over time, customers became advocates to evangelize the brand and suddenly the Nike logo becomes something bigger. It’s not just a logo, but a sense of being part of a special community; an idea formed that shoes and products marked with this special symbol brought a level of empowerment and energy that other brands could not.

Isn’t it amazing that one person can create something for a specific person or cause, and that influence can spread from one to a few — and then to many? Have you ever done something or created something for just one person (or so you thought), but it ended up impacting more people than you anticipated? If you haven’t yet, wouldn’t that be an amazing feeling to know that what you create can positively influence many? It can go beyond a client, a teacher, a boss, or a family member. There’s a potential to impact beyond what you can see.

You have the potential of exponential impact with what you create. Through design, you can solve a visual problem for a particular audience. Based on its impact, that audience can catapult that design into a vehicle that carries a greater idea or purpose.

The question is, do you believe you can have exponential impact? Do you have a vision beyond the request or task at hand? Are you only thinking about color swatches and fonts, or do you think about the larger business case, problem, or purpose that you can help solve? Will you continue to learn and grow so that you can contribute in a more meaningful way?

What you create doesn’t have to be the next Nike logo. Every project you touch won’t change the world. But you can create something that reaches beyond yourself.

Creative professional, designer, author. Lover of chocolate, coffee, laughter, and football. Teaching and inspiring through design.

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